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3.5 out of 5 stars
Economics: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
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58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on 17 June 2011
The problem with the low reviews of this book is that they are expecting a short treatise explaining the complexities of the economic world to people whose desire is to learn about current affairs more than economics as a subject.

This book is not attempting to explain the history of finance (Niall Ferguson's ascent of Money is excellent for this) or the reasons for the credit crunch (try Peston, Who runs Britian for a UK perspective).

Rather, it introduces the layperson to economics as a discipline particularly the kinds of questions/topics economists are concerned with and the methodologies and conceptual frameworks employed to deepen our understanding.

If considered from this perspective, Professor Dasgupta (who was tutored by Nobel Laureate James Mirlees) has written an excellent short introduction. Its core strengths are twofold. Firstly, Dasgupta considers some of the most interesting and counterintuitive economic concepts ( such as Trust) and the implications of such ideas on interaction and economic results. Secondly, Professor Dasgupta has a gift for highlighting and drawing attention to the most theoretically interesting issues, whilst at the same time explaining these in language that is clear for non-experts to understand.

So, if you want to understand economics and not just the business pages of the Times, this book will be worth reading.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 November 2013
The Very Short Introductions series of Oxford University Press provides succinct introductions to more subjects than a person can reasonably hope to know. Parath Dasgupta offers a brief, pointed look at Economics in this 2007 volume in the series. Dasgupta is the Frank Ramsey Professor of Economics at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge. Dasgupta was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his work in economics and has written many important books and studies.

"A little learning is a dangerous thing"; and a "very short introduction" does not have to be easy. Dasgupta's book is not written "for dummies" and it does not present its subject in the manner of an introductory textbook. Instead, Dasgupta offers the lay reader an example of how economists define problems and issues and try to solve them. In other words, the book offers the reader an example of how to "think like an economist". This gives the book a dense character. Dasgupta develops his own way of approaching and his position of questions of economics, neither of which might be fully shared by all members of his profession.

At the outset, Dasgupta makes two broad worth noting. First, he ties in economics with politics and, especially with ethics. Unlike some scientists who might try to minimize ethical, philosophical questions, Dasgupta is quite clear that ethical commitments are a driving force behind economics and politics. The second point involves Dasgupta's approach to economic questions. He rejects a historical, "narrative" approach because of the difficulty of supporting one proposed "narrative" over another. Dasgupta's approach is heavily analytical and quantitative, relying on mathematical modeling, statistics, and game theory. He tries to identify and weigh the factors involved in economic growth.

The material is daunting, but Dasgupta presents it well, if briefly. He enlivens his account by telling a story. Dasgupta introduces the reader to two fictitious girls, , Becky, 10, who lives with her parents in the American Midwest and Desta, 10, who lives with her family in a village in tropical southwest Ethiopia. Becky's father is a successful attorney in a law firm while Desta's father is a subsistence farmer on a small plot. The family is heavily involved in the farming. Becky's family is prosperous, and she has dreams of excelling in school and becoming a doctor. Desta lives at subsistence level. She knows she will marry at a young age at the behest of her parents and be expected to continue in essentially the same harsh life in which she was raised.

Dasgupta tries to show why the circumstances in which Becky and Desta find themselves differ so markedly. He writes: "Economics in great measure tries to uncover the processes that influence how people's lives come to be what they are. The discipline also tries to identify ways to influence these processes so as to improve the prospects of those who are hugely constrained in what they can be and do. The former activity involves finding explanations, while the latter tries to identify policy prescriptions. Economists also make forecasts of what the conditions of economic life are going to be; but if the predictions are to be taken seriously, they have to be built on an understanding of the processes that shape people's lives; which is why the attempt to explain takes precedence over forecasting."

Dasgupta examines the economic factors that shape Becky's and Desta's lives in a series of chapters that include local, national, and international considerations. He begins with the concept of "trust" in economic activities between people which he develops using game theory modeling. In subsequent chapters, he considers communities, markets and households, trying to develop and explain factors common to both the United States and the Ethiopian village. He presents an important chapter on science and technology and on the institutional structures which allow their development. The book becomes broader in scope and probably more controversial in the latter chapters as Dasgupta describes hidden environmental costs, human capital, and natural resources such as air, water, and the ocean fishery in ways that the author claims are not usually followed by other economists. He discusses inequities in the distribution of wealth between the two countries he considers in addition to growing disparities between rich and poor in the United States and other developed nations. He also tries to tie economics in to politics and to the structure of government, based on the virtues of democracy and majority rule.

The book shows an economist thinking and practicing his discipline in a way a lay reader can, with effort, understand rather than offering an overview. The book helped me understand how an economist works. Dasgupta helped me see different ways of thinking about important matters, which is a worthwhile accomplishment and the goal of a "very short introduction".

Robin Friedman
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
This is a great book and Professor Dasgupta was an excellent choice of author. But I want to warn everyone that the publisher messed up and so the Sterling edition has a lot of typos in it which make some of the calculations very confusing. There are about six pages of errors in the Sterling edition so make sure you only buy the Oxford University Press Edition.
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27 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on 15 July 2010
The fundamental problem with this book was that it just didn't do what I wanted it to do.

When I bought this book, I was expecting something that quickly taught/explained to me exactly what fundamental Economic concepts meant - in a concise but interesting manner too. Like any reader, all I wanted was a simple introduction to the topics so typically associated with Economics; such as supply & demand, inflation and currencies. Sadly, this book wasn't what I expected at all - it didn't give me my no-nonsense jargon-free introduction. To be honest, it felt rather deepend, philosophical and prose-like; whereas I'd imagine most readers expect something more factual, simplistic and somewhat text-book like.

It's a bit like a book about cars - whilst one type of book may tell you about the history of cars & the "passion" behind racing, another type of book may just give you a quick overview of famous models and their core specs. This book is certainly the former, but I expected the latter.

To give the author some credit, I do understand why he took this direction for this book. Now a BSc Economics student, I can understand why he chose to introduce Economics in more rounded, depthful and discussive way. After all, Economics (a social science), is much more than a few theories about prices, interest rates and economies. But if you are like me, and wanted this book because for a quick intro to daily economic topics, then this isn't for you. But if you want something that gives a very depthful introduction into the core foundations of economic thinking, this is great. Mixed feelings!
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 18 May 2009
Before I start I just want to say that the author is a excellent authority on economics, and apart from a few books (including this one), OUP's Very Short Introductions have been excellent.

However, I found a lot of the book went off on a unique, but albeit irrelevant course to what was supposed to be centralised in the book, that is standard economics. Too much of the book was on demographics, politics and why there are rich people, and why there are poor people (in an economical way). Economics is closely integrated into these factors, but all the book was about the contrasts in living standards between two children Becky and Desta; most if not all of the reasons for this I had learnt in Geography pre-GCSE and at GCSE at school.
The limitations in this are obvious: we don't really get to see much more of economics than how it is important to analyse living standards.

I went to this book to try and understand the economic terms that bombard me from the TV and in the nespapers, and more of the economics of daily life, and also of economic crises, but I didn't find it in this book. I think anyone considering a book on how economics makes people rich and poor should go for this book, but otherwise, including my reasons above, this book is not good.
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on 4 December 2012
Really helpful introduction for an economic ignoramus - I thought the storyline approach was a good way in to an intricate subject. Now I understand the news that bit better! Recommended.
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on 24 June 2014
Economics is a tough matter, and I believe this book is too simplistic in its language. It did not help that much and I believe it does not provide enough knowledge on the matter
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on 4 October 2014
It's good for those who haven't studied economics before and also for those who have as it makes think more as an economist than a student
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25 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2009
I'm sure I'm not the only one who has bought this book thinking it would rid me of my ignorance of the economic crises that have beset the world. This book doesn't really explain the principles people find confusing and befuddling: Interest rates, exchange rates, hedge funds, securitisation, bonds, and the stock market (among others). Instead it tackles a few basic principles regarding lending and how we all have our price etc.. It fails to clear up most things, and the best parts of the book (the ones regarding development of countries) are mostly covered in a geography GCSE and should be expanded upon more in a longer book. Even if what you want from this book is an introduction to economics for an economics degree or an A- Level I wouldn't recommend it, as most of what it deals with is very intuitive and you most probably already know (i.e. families in poorer countries have more children so the women often don't work). To sort out the more confusing elements to economics and to explain the current economic crisis I would recommend The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson, or perhaps All You Need To Know About The City instead.
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on 26 December 2014
It came in a very good shape. A very light reading to understand the complex economy.
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